IPv6-capable devices: Make sure they are ready

You need a new router, but your budget is in shambles. On top of that, someone tells you IPv4 addresses are running out. What are your options?

Joe Klein, an IPv6 consultant has been mentoring me for years. Recently, he helped with my article about IPv4 addresses running out. During one of our conversations, he suggested I promote replacing IPv4 networking equipment with IPv4/IPv6 ready equipment as the need arose. That way, costly re-buys will not be required in a year or two. Seems simple enough, so why write about it?

Little did I know. My mistake was thinking that it's either IPv6-ready or not. It seems there are varying degrees of readiness and interoperability amongst manufacturers, and that's a problem.

What I've learned

You may be familiar with the Wi-Fi Alliance and its ability to get wireless-networking companies to focus on standardization and interoperability. Thankfully, there are groups doing the same thing with IPv6 equipment.

IPv6 Ready Logo Program

The IPv6 Forum has a service called IPv6 Ready Logo. It's a qualification program that assures devices they test are IPv6 capable. It reminds me of the Wi-Fi Alliance. I say that because once certified, they allow qualified products to display their logo. The IPv6 Forum objectives are to:

  • Verify protocol implementation and validate interoperability of IPv6 products.

  • Provide access to free self-testing tools.

  • Provide IPv6 Ready Logo testing laboratories across the globe dedicated to provide testing assistance or services.

IPv6 experts I talked to, suggest only paying attention to devices given the Phase-2 approval (gold logo). That makes sense, as they are given the full treatment:

"The Phase 2 Logo expands the "core IPv6 protocols" test coverage to approximately 450 tests and adds new extended test categories. The Logo background color is Gold. The Phase 2 Logo has been available since February 16, 2005."

This link will take you to their approved list. I wasn't familiar with this organization, which concerned me. So, I asked Joe Klein what he thought:

"It is a good program aimed at the private sector. Actual testing in the U.S. is performed at the University of New Hampshire, a pioneer in IPv6 testing."

That's one resource. The Department of Defense (DoD) is committed to IPv6 and will likely be the first federal organization completely converted to IPv6. They also have a process for qualifying IPv6 equipment.


The task of certifying IPv6 products was given to the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC), part of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). To help standardize IPv6 qualification procedures, the JITC follows what's called the IPv6 Generic Test Plan. The PDF is 216 pages long, so I thought I'd summarize. First, the devices to be tested:

"The source requirement document, DoD IPv6 Standard Profiles for IPv6 Capable Products, identifies six product classes for IPv6 network devices: Host/Workstation, Network Appliance/Simple Server, Advanced Server, Router, Layer-3 Switch, and Information Assurance Device."

Next, the procedure for checking compliance with IPv6 RFCs:

"Conformance testing will consist of automated test equipment that provides controlled data inputs to elicit a response from a device under test and evaluate that response in accordance with the requirements in the corresponding IPv6 Request for Comment."

Finally interoperability between devices is tested by placing the equipment in a network that simulates the DoD network:

"Data traffic will be generated and transmitted across the network to assess the device's capability to effectively pass IPv6 traffic and perform other IPv6-related functions in a realistic operational environment."

After JITC qualifies a product, it is added to the Unified Capabilities Approved Products List. Fortunately, JITC makes the list available to the public. I once again asked Joe Klein what he thought about the DoD process, here is what he said:

"The DoD takes the chance of buying the wrong product very seriously. As of June 2010, all new networking products must pass testing. This is a lesson for any business/tech person. Require that the equipment you purchase is tested by one of the above programs, to mitigate the risk of a product that does not support IPv6."

Sounds like good advice.

Final thoughts

In the process of researching this article, one thing stood out. Saying a device is IPv6-capable can have multiple meanings. So, make sure the device has been certified by an independent source.